Mary Lacy, left, and Corrine Yonce will be leading the installation of a mosaic at Pliny Park in Brattleboro.
Courtesy photo
Mary Lacy, left, and Corrine Yonce will be leading the installation of a mosaic at Pliny Park in Brattleboro.

‘A space for social connection and contemplation’

Mosaic Mural Project underway for Brattleboro’s Pliny Park

BRATTLEBORO — On Dec. 2, a cluster of townspeople and arts followers gathered for a public meet-the-artists evening to hear plans for a new community arts project - a mosaic mural for Pliny Park at the corner of Main and High streets.

The work will be mounted on the south side of the building - owned by the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce - that frames the park at its north end.

In the warmly lit, well-appointed gathering space of Epsilon Spires, a nonprofit that supports social impact through art and science, a two-artist team commissioned for the project, Mary Lacy and Corrine Yonce, each offered a window into her own art, followed by an explanation of their collaborative process and an invitation for community participation.

That community role in the scheduled summer 2024 creation/installation will invite a range of input, from suggestions for the theme of the mural, to donation of funds to make it possible, to donations of found objects and castoffs to be used in the mural, to the actual hands-on creation of the piece, which will span the full canvas of the plastered wall.

"The initial idea bloomed from a conversation Greg [Lesch, executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce] and I had about how the Pliny Park wall is underutilized and brainstorming how it could be activated and beautified by a community art project," says Jamie Mohr, director of Epsilon Spires.

In summer of 2022, the organization facilitated the High Street Mural project, resulting in an expansive, 2,280-square-foot work that, as described on its website, "supports cultural tourism in our region and inspires a sense of co-ownership and pride in our shared public spaces."

When initiating that, Mohr said in a recent news release, she "learned that every public space presents different challenges, attributes, and unique character."

"The cracked plaster façade of [the Pliny Park] site inspired our artistic direction to go towards creating a mosaic mural, and the medium itself invites a new opportunity for the community to engage with the creative process and share co-ownership of the artwork," she continued.

* * *

With this vision in mind, Mohr researched potential artists, finding Lacy and Yonce, who "both have an impressive background in creating large-scale mural projects and mosaics that involve community engagement and social practice."

Indeed, perusing the website for each artist - and - one could be struck by the innovation, the experience, the vision, and the embracing of the public that each manifests in different ways.

Lacy, originally from Jericho, has grown into her practice as a muralist, first marking that growth with a 2017 nine-city mural tour, which, she says in her brief biography, was "sponsored by Benjamin Moore" and involved "her personal bucket truck [taking] her everywhere from a seven-story building [in Manhattan] to the rural towns of the Mississippi Delta, to just off Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico."

Much of her mural work juxtaposes the natural with the man-made, bringing a sense of imagination, wonder, and life back into our concrete and physical surroundings.

She has organized countless community art projects across a wide array of settings and levels of involvement. Over time, she has expanded her art practice to incorporate ceramics, tile, wood, and other mixed-media materials.

Recently, Lacy, who attended New York University, has been spending more time in her studio and has just opened her second solo show at Soapbox Arts, a gallery in Burlington.

Corrine Yonce, it's noted in her bio, "is an artist, fair- and affordable-housing advocate, and documentarian" who attended University of Vermont and the Maryland Institute College of Arts.

"Yonce often combines visual art with ethnographic media, including audio interviews, household objects, and photographs," her bio continues. "Her story-centered figurative paintings and installations dig into the concepts of home and housing from a community and personal perspective."

Yonce is the founder of the Voices of Home project, a seven-year partnership with the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and housing providers across the state, where she interviewed residents about "home" and co-created art installations and portraits.

She lives and works in Winooski and teaches tenant skills and fair-housing workshops with the Fair Housing Project of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.

* * *

The Dec. 2 event was the first step toward turning the vision of an expansive mosaic mural into reality this June. The intention is that the finished piece will tell, according to the press release, the "collective story of the surrounding community through embedded objects donated by the public."

Such objects include "tiles, plates, beads, buttons, small toys, mirrors, plastic letters, and other personal trinkets (that will withstand weather)."

"The memories and personal meanings embedded within these objects will host a conversation among neighbors and strangers and create a sense of collaboration, intimacy, and discovery within our shared public space," the publicity says.

The very notion of mosaic itself suggests a collecting of myriad images, influences, experiences, and materials that combine to offer an appreciation of the whole - the finished work - as well as of its parts.

"It is our hope that this project will help Pliny Park further its potential as a space for social connection and contemplation, where people can search the finished piece and see how each of their contributions dynamically interact," according to the news release.

"This project is a dream-come-true situation for the two of us," Lacy said at the event: "[Corrine and I] are close friends and talk about art all the time together and the opportunity to collaborate in this way [after having done a community mosaic for the city of Burlington] is a really big deal."

* * *

Lacy and Yonce have different backgrounds but the overlap, Yonce explained at the event, is that they both "think about art in community."

She stressed that "we're really about working with and in community [...] we're still in the very early stages of the planning process, but we're here to get to know people and to start to build a relationship."

"The thing I'm interested in is our relationship to objects," she says. "My other work is housing advocacy, so I think a lot about our relationship with a home space and what happens when we're relocating a lot."

The work of both artists incorporates, to varying degrees, found objects, rescued refuse, and items with provenance. All present could see, in slides of Yonce's work, found materials and reclaimed waste, from signage to shoes, being grouped, tiled, mixed, and matched.

In turn, discussing one of her works, Lacy referred to her "mosaic brain" as she showed pieces incorporating cracked plates and ephemera, as well as more predictable materials in various murals.

About the Pliny Park wall, Lacy notes that the public can participate in multiple ways - from funding, to curating objects, to attending smash-and-sort parties.

"Everyone gets excited about bringing plates and smashing them en masse," Lacy said.

"The smashing is a great cathartic feeling and fun," she adds, but the sorting is where people start talking and getting to know each other. People will be able to come and see the space as it's developing and appreciate what they've added."

The process is organic art.

It is expected - hoped - that the project will be supported by Vermont Better Places, "which is how we funded the creation of the High Street Mural," Mohr explains.

"Better Places is a 'crowdgranting' initiative run by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to create inclusive and vibrant downtown spaces throughout Vermont," Mohr added. "As the project coordinator, I have to raise 33% of the project costs through small donations using the crowdfunding platform Patronicity. Once this goal is reached, these donations will then be matched 2-to-1 by the state."

To inquire about future mosaic mural events, to meet the artists, and to learn how to participate, contact "And stay tuned for the donation campaign launch party beginning in January," Mohr adds.

Annie Landenberger is an arts writer and columnist for The Commons. She remains involved with the Rock River Players, the community theater that she founded and directed for years. She also is one half of the musical duo Bard Owl, with partner T. Breeze Verdant.

This The Arts column by Annie Landenberger was written for The Commons.

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